Grounds for detention



Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Pre-removal detention upon arrival

Under Article 44(6) of the Law on Aliens in the Republic of Bulgaria (LARB), as amended in 2013, a third-country national may be detained where:

(a)   His or her identity is uncertain;

(b)   He or she is preventing the execution of the removal order; or

(c)   There is a possibility of his or her hiding.

The different grounds are often used in combination to substantiate detention orders in practice. According to an analysis of jurisprudence of the Administrative Court of Sofia and the Administrative Court of Haskovo in the period 2012-2015, the Centre for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria found that the majority of detention orders were based on grounds of identity, often combined with a risk of absconding.1 The ground of preventing the execution of a return order seems to be rarely, if ever, applied.2

In 2016, the number of persons issued a detention order for reasons of removal was as follows:

Ground for pre-removal detention

Detentions in 2016

His or her identity is uncertain


Preventing the execution of a removal order

There is a possibility of his or her hiding

Total applicants detained


In practice, detention of third-country nationals is ordered by the border or immigration police on account of their unauthorised entry, irregular residence or lack of valid identity documents. After the amendments of the LARB in the end of 2016,3 these authorities can initially order a detention of 30 calendar days within which period the immigration police should decide on following detention grounds and period or on referral of the individual to an open reception centre, if he or she has applied for asylum.

The law does not allow the SAR to conduct any determination procedures in the pre-removal detention centres.4 However, as of 31 December 2016 and presently, the SAR continues to register, fingerprint, and in some cases interview asylum seekers in immigration detention centres and to keep them there after issuing them asylum registration cards. This malpractice is applied with respect to certain nationalities who are deemed either a security risk (Afghan and Pakistani nationals) or deportable (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, etc.) Their release and access to asylum procedure is usually secured only by an appeal against the detention and a court order for their release.     


Asylum detention

As of 1 January 2016, asylum seekers can be placed during the determination of their claim in closed reception facilities under the jurisdiction of the SAR. The national grounds transpose Article 8(3)(a), (b), (d) and (f) of the recast Reception Conditions Directive, hence an applicant may be detained:5

(a)   In order to determine or verify his or her identity or nationality;

(b)   In order to determine those elements on which the application for international protection is based which could not be obtained in the absence of detention, in particular when there is a risk of absconding of the applicant;

(c)   When protection of national security or public order so requires;

(d)   For determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person.

Ground for asylum detention

Detentions in 2016

Protection of national security or public order


Determination of identity or nationality


Determination of elements for application of international protection


Determination of responsible Member State




Detention in a closed reception facility should be implemented for the shortest possible period.6

  • 1. Centre for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria, Who Gets Detained?, available at:, September 2016, 21.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Law amending the Law on Aliens in the republic of Bulgaria, № 97/2016 of 2 December 2016, available in Bulgarian at:
  • 4. Transitional Clause 5 LAR.
  • 5. Article 45b(1) LAR.
  • 6. Article 45b LAR.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti